San Mateo County Superior Court Releases Best Practice Recommendations for Parents Sharing Custody and Parenting Time During COVID-19
COVID-19 has presented a new set of challenges for parents sharing custody and parenting time. Shelter-in-place orders, school closures, job losses, and limited family court operations have complicated parents’ ability to interpret, follow, and enforce court-ordered parenting plans.
On April 13, 2020, the Family Law Division of the San Mateo County Superior Court provided nine best practice recommendations for parents sharing custody and parenting time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal of the Court’s recommendations is to encourage parents with shared custody orders to continue to follow their parenting plan as closely as possible. During these uncertain times, it is critical that parents are flexible, transparent, and collaborative, as doing so will ensure a level of consistency and stability that is in the children’s best interests.
The nine best practice recommendations include:
1. School Closures. Parenting time should continue as if the children are still attending school in accordance with the school calendar of the children’s school district.
2. Denial of Parenting Time. COVID-19 is generally not a reason to deny parenting time.
3. Parenting Time in Public Places. If there are no open parks or recreation areas where parents and children can maintain social distancing and avoid commonly touched surfaces, then parenting time should be conducted virtually via videoconferencing or telephone.
4. Supervised Parenting Time. If the supervision provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related issues or government orders, the parents should work collaboratively to ensure parenting time continues to occur in a manner that promotes their children’s safety and well-being.
5. Governor’s Executive Orders Regarding Travel. Parents whose custody orders require out of state travel or travel outside of the 9 Bay Area Counties for custodial exchanges should work collaboratively to determine whether such travel is currently advisable or should be rescheduled in light of local health conditions where visits are scheduled to occur and the potential for COVID-19 related travel disruptions.
6. Exchanges. During the exchange of children, all parties should follow CDC guidelines and local health officer directives for limiting the spread of the virus.
7. Transparency. Unless parties are restrained from communicating with one another by court order, parents are encouraged to communicate with one another about precautions they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19, and about potential exposure to the virus within their own households.
8. Makeup Parenting Time. If parenting time is missed due to COVID-19 related issues or government orders, parents are encouraged to work collaboratively to schedule makeup parenting time.
9. Flexibility. If COVID-19-related changes to a parent’s employment or health situation make current custody orders impractical, parents are encouraged to work together to reach agreements to modify those orders in the best interests of their children.
The complete recommendations can be found at the link below: https://www.sanmateocourt.org/documents/court_news_and_notices/041320a.pdf.